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  • Writer's pictureJacob Curtis

How to know if you are successful

How do you know if you are successful? Or how do you become successful? Stephen R. Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People says, that before World War I, success was primarily measured by one's personal values, such as integrity, humility, patience, and other virtues–a person's character was the foundation of their success. However, following World War I, in the 1920s, the success measuring stick changed. It was measured by things such as personality, public image, and sphere of influence.

As a culture, we changed the measuring stick of success from values and principles to our sphere of influence. So, does that mean you don’t need integrity, humility, patience, and other virtues to succeed? Or is your ability to influence someone and your public image all that matter?

In Proverbs, it says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)). I understand this to mean that we need to have a solid foundation to base our lives on.

In our pursuit of progress, we often forget the importance of the foundation that supports it. Utilizing manipulative tactics to increase productivity or gain favor will ultimately lead to failure. When insincerity and deceit are present, people will sense it and lose trust in you. Even if you have good intentions and speak convincingly, without trust, lasting success cannot be achieved. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say." In other words, our actions and character speak louder than words.

So how do you develop a trustworthy character and how does this help you become successful in your life and in your quilt shop? Over the next few weeks, we will explore the answer to these questions through The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. As implied in the title of his book, he says there are just seven habits that answer these questions.

Aristotle wrote that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” The habits we form have a significant impact on our lives. These patterns, whether we are aware of them or not, consistently shape our character and determine how effective we are on a daily basis.

Habits have three attributes: knowledge, skill, and desire. Knowledge tells us what to do and why. Skill tells us how to do it. And desire is the motivation, the want to do. We need all three elements to make something a habit.

The concept of effectiveness can be best understood through Aesop’s story of the goose that laid the golden eggs. The tale is about a farmer who discovers a shiny golden egg in the nest of his pet goose. Initially, he's suspicious of it, but he takes it to be appraised.

To his amazement, the egg turns out to be pure gold. The next day, the goose lays another golden egg, and this continues day after day. The farmer becomes incredibly wealthy, but his greed and impatience lead him to a fatal decision. He decides to kill the goose to obtain all the golden eggs at once. Unfortunately, when he opens the goose, he finds it empty. He has destroyed the goose that produced the golden eggs and is now unable to obtain any more.

As the fable shows, true effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the capacity to produce (the goose).

If you adopt a pattern of life that focuses on golden eggs and neglect the goose, you will soon be without the asset that produces golden eggs. On the other hand, if you only take care of the goose with no regard for the golden eggs, you soon won’t have the wherewithal to feed yourself or the goose. Effectiveness is a balance between the production of desired results and the production capacity or the ability to produce.

In the coming weeks we will dive deeper into each of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people, but here they are in summary:

  1. Be proactive

  2. Begin with the end in mind

  3. Put first things first

  4. Think win/win

  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

  6. Synergize

  7. Sharpen the saw

Again, we’ll dive deeper into each of these habits and how they help you to be successful in your life and your quilt shop in the coming weeks.

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